Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Making Reform Universal

John Amos Comenius was a progressive and an idealist, but not a utopian dreamer. He was aware that a better society can only come from better individuals. As an innovative educator, he had seen with his own eyes the power that good teaching has to improve each generation over the one before it. Comenius advocated raising young children to be curious, first-hand investigators of the world around them. As they grow older, they should be encouraged to become fully balanced individuals, not overly studious nor excessively athletic, neither fanatical in expressing faith nor extreme in their political leanings. Cruelty and compulsion are to be avoided, for freedom is the mind's reason for being.


"For the mind was made to be free (it will not and cannot be compelled in any way without being destroyed), and to preserve a balance with that of its neighbour which is equally free in all respects. This balance takes us back to the saying of Christ 'Do unto others as ye would that they should do unto you',' or negatively 'Do not unto others that which ye would not have them do unto you.' This is the keynote of God's law affecting morals, commerce, and the rights of all nationalities." (Panorthosia, Ch. 12, para 5, pp. 187-188)

Comenius' emphasis on the Golden Rule as the basic unit for teaching universal morality has been strengthened by modern scholarship, which has uncovered instances of the Golden Rule, phrased both positively and negatively, in every major religious tradition.

Comenius advocated teaching girls along with boys, and poor children alongside the rich. Both policies were controversial at the time. Although universal education is accepted now in prosperous countries (indeed this is the main reason they are wealthy and powerful in the first place), it is far from fully implemented on a global level.

Like any good teacher, Comenius himself embodied the qualities he taught. As mentioned last time, he himself achieved distinction in all three of the fields of endeavour that he sought in Panorthosia to introduce into governance. He was an experienced leader and peace negotiator, a renowned educational reformer who wrote a school curriculum for Sweden, an advocate of the new science -- his ideas helped inspire what later became the Royal Society -- and a leader of his religious community, the Moravian Brotherhood.

During his long career he straddled all three of what he considered to be the three great pillars of peace and the three sources of human potential: politics, science (or natural philosophy, as it was called at the time) and religion. This is a reflection of our three basic human responsibilities, our duty to self, to God and to our fellow man. He calls upon each of us to answer in our own lives and in our own way, each of these three callings, science, religion and the politics of peace.

A Renaissance Man's Plan

Panorthosia goes into great detail on how to strike this balance in our work, as family members, as believers, as supporters of our local community and of humankind. In the first chapter it says,

"My purpose is to enable men to see God and serve Him so that His Kingdom exists on earth as it is in heaven... Then the light and peace would return to the world, which would work like an elaborate clock with all its components well-connected, well balanced and functioning together for a common purpose. Every man in creation would return to the image of God within him (1 Colossians 1, 26-29) and similarly every family group, every state and church, and finally the entire world." (Panorthosia, Ch. 1, para 13, 15, p. 50)

Perhaps surprisingly, it is only in the final two chapters of a twenty-six chapter book that Panorthosia details the organization of his suggested world government.

I believe that Panorthosia should be studied carefully by anyone who aspires to world citizenship. Although it is a difficult work with many meanderings, it is impossible to read it and not be changed, and not to find in it hope for the future of humanity. My own book series, Cosmopolis Earth, is a humble attempt to respond creatively to the many possibilities opened up by Comenius' revolutionary masterpiece.

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